PM: Winograd poses difficult questions

Olmert: Gov't making "profound alterations" to amend shortcomings; Peretz slams Barak and Mofaz.

olmert 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
olmert 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The Final Winograd Report on the Second Lebanon War is "a penetrating and extensive report that poses many difficult questions," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday during a meeting of Kadima ministers following the previous day's release of the report to the public. "The government is in the midst of important work," he said, adding that the government was working to amend the shortcomings revealed by the report. "The changes are not mere formalities but rather profound alterations." The prime minister praised the IDF soldiers who participated in the fighting and also turned to the bereaved families. "I feel the pain of the bereaved families; they sacrificed that which was most important to them; a sacrifice that was not for naught, but for Israel's security." Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who had called for Olmert's resignation when the interim report came out, emphasized that "the responsibility was not taken off our shoulders last night - let us not delude ourselves." Livni said that it is "very hard for the Israeli people to hear the term 'missed opportunity,'" which the committee used to describe the war. "We must ensure that we act in a responsible, level-headed manner. Only then can we follow through with our calling, which reflects the Winograd conclusions." "The report is severe and we must carry on together - that is what taking responsibility is," the foreign minister said. Former defense minister Amir Peretz convened a press conference on Thursday during which he blamed his predecessors for the failures of the Second Lebanon War. Peretz, who served as defense minister during the war, said "the war was indeed a missed opportunity, but the decision to embark on it was a correct decision to change a reality of paralysis and a balance of terror. Hizbullah interpreted this as total freedom and we have allowed it to build an arsenal of rockets. I am aware of the claims that now [Hizbullah] is more heavily armed [than before the war], but the question of the proliferation of rockets is not the central one, but whether they will dare pull the trigger." Peretz said he was "bewildered that current politicians and former IDF officers unanimously praised the decision to go to war for over two weeks, until the Kafr Kana incident … striving to get credit for it … and then [said] the decision was unplanned and rushed into." "There are important questions about the six years leading up to the war; years which I think were important, and the [Winograd] commission noted this in the report. These questions should be posed to those who decided that the IDF should be a small and clever military, thus setting in motion the dynamics that brought us to the brink of catastrophe, and also to those who decided we could leave Lebanon without an agreement, while forsaking our Christian allies and creating a vacuum which invited Hizbullah to take over," Peretz said, hinting at Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who as chief of staff advocated a "small but clever military" and as prime minister, in 2000, withdrew from Lebanon without reaching any agreement with Hizbullah. As the Winograd report's criticism was directed in a large degree against the military, the IDF found an unlikely advocate in Peretz, who asked rhetorically, "Aren't we - all the former chiefs of staff who became prime ministers or defense ministers - the ones who forced the military to cut back? They should not even dare hold the IDF accountable, because they forced it to act as it did." Peretz's criticism of "former chiefs of staff" was probably also directed against Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz, who served as chief of staff when then-prime-minister Barak withdrew the IDF from Lebanon.